Episode Description

Ty and Dan recap USC’s triple overtime thriller with Arizona while asking questions about whether the Trojan defense has improved to the point of being *enough* to power a playoff run. And, while they’re at it, they look back at other bad defenses from a year ago and project forward for Oklahoma and North Carolina, while trying to figure out what’s going on with LSU.

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Dan Rubenstein, 43-41 in triple overtime.
USC prevails over Arizona.
This game happened late, late as we were recording the podcast,
the recap episode, which you can go back and listen to.
This one ended shortly after we hit the stop button.
We were all on pins and needles watching to see how it would end. USC at home,
No less, perhaps in a look ahead spot, getting a big win over Arizona,
but perhaps raises some questions, some of which we may address today.
First of all,
I appreciate you just jumping into this, this cold plunge of a game talking about USC. I’m
Dan, that’s Ty. Yes, USC was able to win. Always win your clunkers. Right, Miami? always
win your clunkers at the end of games when it comes to very specific situations.
USC won its clunker. It’s getting progressively clunkier for USC first letting
Colorado back in the game. And then of course, falling behind like they did against Arizona
17-0, looking much stronger, especially on defense. By the way, in that second half
against Arizona, let’s give credit where it’s due. They tightened up on defense, fully not
prepared for what Arizona was going to do in that first half. And then look, by this
time, you know what happened.
You know, the weirdness at the end of the game where the bad snap led to a missed guppy
of a field goal. It was all botched. It really wasn’t the kicker’s fault. Um, and it goes
to overtime and in triple overtime, triple overtime being where they just exchange two
point conversions, is where USC was able to prevail when they got a stop on a pitch play
from Arizona. One, you watch you didn’t watch this game in its entirety live because we’re
doing the show. You watched all of overtime? And the end of the game? Oh yeah, glued
to the TV. It was an unbelievable watch. I saw the score. I saw that it was coming down
to it. I was like all right, I’ll see if USC can close this out. They should be able to,
and then I saw that it was why it was going to overtime. How was going over to
overtime? I was paying attention. I wrapped up our video work and then was
about to go to sleep and said you know what I’ve got youtube tv, not a sponsor
could be maybe not after you trashed them last week on a recap show, what not
a sponsor probably won’t be probably won’t be. I bring up my phone to bed.
Jodi with an I has been sleeping for hours. I get into bed with the game
playing with the dulcet tones of I believe Dave Flemming and Brock Osweiler
on the call. So I welcomed those two gentlemen into my bed. Jodi wasn’t super
thrilled and I was shh shh shh,
this getting weird!
and that’s how I experienced usc eventually winning that game, especially
after Arizona and count me in on team proponent of you’re a huge underdog on
the road and have an opportunity to win from two yards out. Go for it. I’m on
that team squarely. you’re just prolonging a loss in too many cases
where you’re just like, do you have a pretty good two point
play in the quiver?
No, man.
That would be super cool to run like Wildcat special, whatever
they’re going to call their version of Phillies.
That’s that was what annoyed me about the end of that game.
But there is a broader conversation we had about both
of these teams.
I agree.
Yeah, this was a close game throughout Arizona out gained
USC 506 to 365 backup quarterback, by the way, back up
I was just going to say I was just going to say Noah Fafita.
Welcome to the show. He’s been really solid had five touchdowns in this game
kind of got the better of Caleb Williams. Caleb Williams was Caleb Williams to a
large extent but did have some trouble getting going you look at the stat line
you see 219 yards and a touchdown that is definitely a bit of a drop-off from
what we’re used to normally from the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.
No, no Fafita had all the stats on his end. What I don’t want to do is simply
chalk this up as a look ahead spot for USC because we had a similar conversation about Notre Dame.
I think it would be doing Louisville an injustice to say that it was just Notre Dame looking ahead,
that it was the result of Notre Dame having a couple back to back to back games that were brutal
on consecutive weeks. And that’s why they let their guard like I don’t want to undersell these
teams in that way. Fair. I think Arizona is a dangerous team.
Right now, per projections, they’ve got a 63% chance of winning six or more games
and going to a bowl this season, which would be a huge story and a huge success
for Jedd Fisch and how he’s building this program gradually over the course of the
last couple seasons. Arizona is a fun watch.
That all being said,
USC’s defense,
USC’s defense was very much a topic of discussion coming into this season.
Now we’re a month into the year.
I don’t know if the questions are any different.
I’d like to talk to you about whether or not we think they are better.
That is my burning question, Dan,
and not just about USC,
but I’ve got a grouping of teams or group of five teams from around college
football that either came into this season with questions about their defense,
Or now that the season has started,
we are asking new questions about their defense
that we did not see coming.
I was hoping we could go through
and discuss where we think these teams are at.
If it’s getting better getting worse
or if it is going to be a talking point the entire way through.
Yeah, progress report in terms of where teams
with the biggest questions,
biggest power five teams with the biggest questions
seem to be heading into the season
and how they’ve responded.
I mean, this is post Super Ball Saturday, right?
So where their bounce back progress or lack thereof stands right now.
So yeah, I think we can start with USC.
I think that’s a fair question.
Okay, USC’s defense is not disastrous all of the time.
Last year.
It seemed to be mostly disastrous most of the time with the caveat of
they were able to generate turnovers.
They were able to force turnovers or they were able to take advantage of
opportune moments with tipped passes or fumbles and the ball seem to bounce their way more
often than not, which great take advantage. That’s what great teams do. USC last year
was not a great team. The defense though at times near the end of the season, right where
you have the game at Utah where they can’t guard a tight end to save their life. The
game against Tulane where they can’t seem to put away a completely overmatched Tulane
defense when facing USC’s offense, but also a USC defense that couldn’t get off the field
against this a very good two lane offense that eventually wins that game. Is that cotton
bowl? I want to say no. So there was good reason USC found themselves in that game,
most of which was that they had a Heisman winning quarterback. And so this year, from
what I’ve seen, because they didn’t start out the season playing against teams that
you could really measure progress against beyond saying, did they take care of business in a way
that they didn’t? And I don’t think they fully did. When you look at the teams they played,
maybe outside of that Stanford game, um, USC’s defense seems to get more pressure on the
quarterback with new defensive lineman, you know, adding in Mason Cobb, who’s been largely productive,
uh, the transfer linebacker from Oklahoma state. The past defense seems to be, I wouldn’t say
rounding into shape but making
progress like I
used to watch that game against
Arizona. I think it was Calen
Bullock, the safety who had the
really nice interception in that
key moment against Noah Fifita
over the top like they make
those plays. This is an
athletic secondary. I don’t
think it’s a great secondary,
but they’re athletic and
they’re capable, but by and
large what you’re able to do
on the ground by going just
straight at this defense does
not seem improved from where
they were last year. Yeah, the
run fits the ability to create
walls, the ability to set edges fully does not seem to be there.
And it doesn’t especially seem fixable as we record this in early to mid
And it doesn’t seem fixable in time to play Notre Dame this weekend.
And look, I’ve got choice words for Notre Dame and their offense and
whatever the heck is going on there.
But we already know what Notre Dame wants to do and it’s precisely what
you just described.
Notre Dame wants to run directly at you.
And USC knows that the question is,
given that it’s been so telegraphed for the first six weeks of the season,
can USC do anything to stop it even if they know it’s coming?
I’m not sure that they can.
I was just looking through some of the numbers here.
Of course, these aren’t complete figures.
I look at last season.
I compare to present day,
about 25 spots better
in the SP+ and the defensive
side of the football.
I think you’re right about being able to get a little bit more pressure. I think you’re right about the secondary starting to round into form
I don’t know if it’s a trend that we will continue to see but there are at least positive signs
Yeah, at least positive signs and again if your USC
The game may not necessarily be building a shutdown what I would consider shutdown
Defense the game may be marginal improvement
Just marginal improvements because the offense is so damn good
The offense can score seemingly it will against most of the teams on the schedule
The question is can you improve on the margins enough to give yourself a little bit of extra extra separation?
Because when you go up against Washington when you go up against Oregon teams that can also score it helps to get one or two
Extra stops throughout the course of the game sometimes in a big closed game such as that
That’s all it takes to give yourself that separation and we haven’t really been able to count on USC to do that
So I’m curious to see
How things shake out as we get a little bit deeper into this thing this weekend will provide an interesting test
To say the absolute very least
Yeah, and here’s the thing too with the the fixability of USC’s defense if you’re recruiting against USC right now
It’s not all that difficult to say
Why would you go to USC? Why would you go play defensive tackle? Why would you play outside linebacker for USC?
What is the track record of Alex Grinch defenses?
What is the track record of Lincoln Riley defenses?
If you can come play at Texas, come play at Washington, come play at, you know, Georgia, whatever whoever USC is recruiting against now, even UCLA is doing terrific defense across the city.
And so that’s the difficult thing in turning this this aircraft carrier around, the USC defense.
you need to find people who can buy what you’re selling and it doesn’t seem like
the Alex Grinch era is easy to sell at the moment. So USC and you’re right
about Notre Dame, though. I would argue with Notre Dame. Yeah, that’s what they
want to do. I mean, I want to play at center court of Wimbledon. I don’t know
if Notre Dame is necessarily succeeded lately and running straight at teams.
They haven’t they haven’t USC though could be the cure for the common desire
to run at teams. So we shall see who else fits the bill in terms of a
a progress report of needs heading into the year.
(upbeat music)
Talk about Oklahoma.
All right, easy transition, yeah.
Easy, easy transition.
Oklahoma, I was checking before we hit record,
currently projected to go 12-0,
hence the 12-and-Oklahoma moniker
that I trotted out there on Saturday night.
Are there shirts?
You can’t just come up with clever things
and not monetize, Ty, come on.
12 and Oklahoma. Here, let me see.
Somebody’s gotta have this.
I assume so.
I’m not even gonna bother.
Look, somebody’s got that.
If not somebody, please make it.
I’ll buy a shirt.
Send me one.
Oklahoma projects 12-0 right now.
And for most of the rest of the way,
it is like by double digits.
Now, Oklahoma’s in a much, much different spot
than they were a year ago.
A year ago, this was a team that was getting
Routinely skewered on the defensive side of the ball
Perhaps in no greater more visible spot than last year’s Red River shootout when they lost 49 nil
To Texas. they avenge that loss this year. They won last week 34-30 as
I look at the remaining games on this schedule. There are not a whole lot of offenses that frighten me
I think we know that the defense is better
The question is is there a devil hiding in there somewhere for the Sooners that
We should be aware of that We should look out for as they square off against the rest of this Big 12 schedule
You know how I feel that at times Brent Venables defense is so good that I’m listening for somebody whacking a trash can
like the Houston Astros situation
They’re like, nope, this is this is play-action pass
pass. This is a play action pass
roll out and then there’s just
like weird wind chimes that you
hear in Morgantown or something?
Jose Altuve is on the sideline, so weird!
I think since we saw and
that he’s had that accusation
levied against him, brent
venables before, probably by me.
I think it was when they went up
thirty five nothing against pitt
three years ago or something in
like eleven and a half minutes.
I was like wait a minute, seems
suspicious. short of that The
thing for Oklahoma to me has been one, the offensive progress. This is an Oklahoma offense
that I think is one of the best teams at yards per drive and avoiding three and outs. So
if you have an improving defense, but not necessarily a deep defense in the way that
Oklahoma probably will in a couple years as there’s more recruiting classes to come in
and really build up in the in Brent Venables vision. This is an offense that gives the
defense time. And so I’m not going to say it serves because they’re actually, you know,
they can be pretty explosive. They have playmakers, but they’re doing their own defense a number
of favors by possessing the ball by not making stupid mistakes. And then when you have a
defense that has been as incredible in the red zone like that, save your worthy stop
and that that red zone stand that goal line stand that they had was probably is probably
going to end up being one of the five most important moments of the season for anybody
right to be able to play into what was your weakness now becoming your strength in your
biggest moment against your biggest rival. I mean if that’s not a symbol of how the 2023
season overall is different than where it was last year. I don’t know what is, so the
fact that they are one of what one of the best four or five teams thus far in the nation
in the red zone, if not in goal to go situations, that’s enormous that’s enormous because they’re
going to give up yards are going to give a bigger plays. They don’t you know the defense
isn’t fully where it will be. Even if this Oklahoma defense is perennially top 15 or
something in the SEC, which would be incredible and something we’re not at all used to in
the modern era for Oklahoma, they’re going to give up some bigger plays. That’s just
what’s going to happen as you sort of round into shape. They have done a great job and
I don’t even are they going to be favored by single digits, let alone favor the rest
of the way against what the schedule looks like. No, I said double digits, double digits
the rest of the way. They will likely have a lapsing week, but it’s hard to see them
losing to a team like TCU or West Virginia or something as they’re currently constituted.
They are, I would say, at least a 14 point favorite against every team that remains in
their schedule with the exception of Kansas. The Kansas where’s that game? The Kansas Road
game. Okay, it is a road. Yeah. In week nine is probably one that will be under two touchdowns,
But everything else, it would not surprise me one bit if they were at least a 14 point
I do want to take this chance to address something on the Oklahoma defense.
I got some questions about this.
I often cite the tackle success rate.
People are asking, “Where do you get that from?”
It was my cherry-picked stat of the week last week.
I will say that it is some measure of the PFF tackle/miss tackle numbers that they keep
with some special sauce mixed in from other sources.
So it is a measure, it is a data point, obviously,
as we saw last week, it is not everything.
And Oklahoma did what it needed to do to just get enough separation
to knock off the Texas Longhorns.
So I give them a ton of credit for that win,
and I give the staff a ton of credit
for fighting the demons in the offseason with respect to this defense,
because it was a big talking point by us, by others.
And now they’ve got a really good chance of finishing 12 and 0 a about a 25% chance of finishing
12 and 0 based on the most recent projections, which is crazy 12 in Oklahoma
12 and Oklahoma. I saw that what Brent Venables said this year’s team reminded him of the 1999
2000 era. They win a national championship. Mike Leach offensive coordinator
Uh wild to think about you know in August, but the progress
They are, I think, a little bit more than a point per drive better on defense. A point per drive
allowed, which I think it’s like 12 drives against a game. 12 points better in terms of points
allowed in terms of year to year. That’s incredible. We’ll see if it holds up because defense is where
you need that depth. But so far, so great. Let’s go to another team. Let’s North Carolina.
Okay, North Carolina. So North Carolina last year per our trustee SP+ 70th in defense
this year up to 42nd and we have been asking all year whether or not it is a mirage.
It is easier to ask that question with North Carolina perhaps than most teams in this
conversation because their opposition thus far has been South Carolina, Appalachian State,
Minnesota Pittsburgh and Syracuse. We’re not exactly talking about my powered offenses here
That being said that has not stopped north carolina before from giving up a ton of points
Look what happened last year against app state
so my question to you is
North carolina defense: real not real?
sort of waiting to show its true colors as they get into the
meat of their ACC schedule. Where are you at real improvement? Not dramatic improvement.
Okay. I don’t think they’re improvement on the level of Oklahoma. And I think what they
resemble right now is a competent defense, which at times last year seemed to be a foreign notion.
And so right now with North Carolina, the underlying numbers sometimes aren’t great.
Those offenses that you rattled off haven’t been incredible this year. But like you said,
they were kind of disastrous at times last year against not so great offenses. So the progress is
clear for North Carolina. You can still it seems run straight at them and they have Miami this
week. Do they not North Carolina against Miami is one of the big night games in week seven.
Yes. And so that is a team that can be happy. Mario cristobal, the better parts of Mario
Cristobal are happy to go straight at teams, especially if they’re allowing it. Virginia,
Virginia, Georgia Tech, Campbell, Duke. I don’t see them as being huge threats in this moment
right now. We’ll see on Riley Leonard’s health by mid-November. Then they finish with a tough
duo with Clemson and NC State both on the road. But no, North Carolina has addressed
its weakness. They get after the quarterback in a much clearer way than they’ve been than
their where than where they’ve been these past couple of years. And even with a decimated
secondary. The teams you rattled off don’t necessarily have huge passing attacks, but
it’s progress. It’s absolute progress that I don’t know if I saw coming, but I didn’t
see anything necessarily. There’s still going to be if they win big games. I think it’s
still going to be because of the offense and Drake maye, but the defense is not seen as
something that you are easily able to get yours against. Miami this weekend. I
will be a test and you know, Miami’s hungry to try and avenge what happened a week ago.
Yeah. But Virginia, Georgia Tech, Campbell, all these teams that you rattled off. Yeah.
With the exception of Clemson and what I have to believe will be a tough fight against NC State
to close out the year. This is a team that’s positioned pretty well. Again, this is this
is a great case for marginal improvement because simply not being a disaster against the bad teams
on your schedule is notable.
Simply being able to go into a game against Miami,
knowing that you’ve got the offense.
And if your defense performs just a little better
because this figures would be a close game, just a little better.
That gives you a good shot at a win at home.
Yeah, that that is a much, much different perspective than a year ago.
This is a team right now about a 5% chance of going 12 and 0.
But the odds are certainly higher of them going at least 10 and 2.
The two most notable games, I think, on the schedule
the rest of the way this week against Miami.
That’ll be a tough one.
And then week 12 on the road at Clemson.
That’ll be a tough game.
They’re not favored at least per projections.
Now early October in that football game.
I suppose things could change who knows where Duke will be
the NC State game.
I you know, I’m not crazy about NC State for multitude
of reasons, but that’s still kind of a rivalry.
So my thought here is just that North Carolina the
The improvement is real. It is tangible. We should probably stop with the gene
chisic jokes. I’m reserving my right, but yeah, I think have them handy in the
event that we need them at some point in like week 10 tie. I will I will always
stand up for any situation that could be a disaster and it isn’t. I will always
say North Carolina could have been a disaster this year and they’re not
there is something to be said for simply staying the course like I don’t
know if you’ve ever been told at a function to be like you know what don’t
bring this up and you’re desperate to bring something up with somebody that
you’ve been told something crazy about oh yeah and you’re like you don’t want
me to ask like hold on you’re telling me they were a porn star that dressed up
like giraffe like a giraffe and i’m not I can’t ask about that and then you
just are very polite and you make polite small talk and you get out of
with a win. That’s reasonable. I don’t have any experience with that specific scenario.
Let me add. But yeah, final team. Not a team that got secured a year ago. Not a team that
got secured a year ago. In fact, this was a top 25 defense a year ago, but the LSU Tigers
have gone in the opposite direction. 76th per the latest SP+ in overall defense.
Yeah, and they were there. It was a question not because people seem to go into the season
thinking that LSU’s defense was going to collapse or even get like way way better. But the LSU
defense I think had a magnifying glass on it because of one bringing back maybe the
most dominant defensive player in the country and Harold Perkins to bringing in transfers
on all three levels. The new corners the new linebackers new defensive linemen. I think
was what Jordan Jefferson from West Virginia Omar Spates from Oregon State. The two new
corners like there was this like, oh is Brian Kelly building up the depth on this LSU defense
to the point where they’re going to take a big jump forward. And so that was an interesting
storyline in terms of progress and we talked about that on our LSU specific show that we
did in our offseason. Obviously LSU has the setback that the health of their defensive
line coach Jimmy Lindsay. I think in early August he leaves the program. They now bring
in Pete Jenkins, the big defensive line consultant, because something needs to be fixed dramatically
up front for LSU. This is one of the worst defenses in the country. This is not just
one of the worst defenses in the SEC, not just one of the worst defenses lately, but
since that second half against Florida State, they have been alarmingly bad doing everything
in every situation. They have been leaky up front. They have been leaky in the secondary.
They have been bad tackling. They have been there. They’ve been basically no juice when
watching this team like that. The energy isn’t there. Mizzou could do whatever it wanted
like Arkansas was doing whatever it wanted for stretches of that game. And so in terms
of progress, we expect this LSU defense to jump up a little bit and it’s gone dramatically
in the other direction this year under Brian Kelly and Matt house. If you look at what
else he’s done so far this season against power five teams not going to count the the
The Grambling Game, but in those five contests, four of them, the defense underperformed projections.
So Florida State was one of the more notable ones.
Ole Miss was the most notable.
They gave up a ton of points, obviously, and that one lost 55-49.
But last week against Mizzou, nine points worse than projections.
The Arkansas game that you mentioned, about seven points worse than projections.
The only one where they overperformed was Mississippi State.
And I would argue that one kind of doesn’t count
because Mississippi State did not have its offense together
when they played back in week three.
Well, it would have it counts in that.
It wasn’t a disaster.
Once again of these remaining games, they project to lose
against Alabama.
They project to lose against Texas A&M
and it would not surprise me with this defense.
If there’s another one in there that
that sort of falls off the back of a truck because defense
has not shown
that much improvement.
Yeah, their their rush defense would clearly be a huge talking point. If not for how bad their own past defense is and so
yeah, it doesn’t seem like it’s going to get corrected this year. I don’t know if you make a change at coordinator. I did look to see who else is on that staff and it’s Bob Diaco coaching those outside linebackers plenty of experience there.
It’s bad. It’s the progress has been fully in the other direction
Right in, let us know what you think of all of these teams.
What did we get right?
What did we get wrong?
You can hit us up on social media.
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The full version of this episode is available.
We’ve got Verballer burning questions.
We’ve got other things to discuss here
over the next half hour, 45 minutes or so.
So we’ll hope to see you over at Verballers.com.
Before we let the fine people go though, Dan,
as we said on the recap episode,
we wanted to give the reverbs a little bit
of an extra chance to marinate.
Especially since we had some late kicks.
Here are those week six reverbs.
Have a listen.
There you go.
Those are your week six reverbs.
Appreciate it.
Well then I’m saving my reactions to those
for the verballers.com portion.
How about that to you?
Beautiful, I love it.
Well, look again for Ballers.com
is where you can catch the remainder of this episode.
Don’t forget to hit follow, subscribe, like, rate, review,
all of the normal stuff that people tell you to do.
Please do it for us, that helps.
We will talk to you all soon.
Stay solid, peace.

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